How To Become A Counselor And Help Others

Updated January 03, 2020

Medically Reviewed By: Dawn Brown

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A counselor can be a rewarding career. You spend your time helping others, connecting with people from different backgrounds, and you learn more about humanity with each client. With that said, not everyone can become a counselor. Counseling is much more than just talking to people. It involves years of study, an understanding of the human condition, and much empathy. Many have tried, but not everyone is going to become a counselor.

However, if you have people skills and are serious about becoming a counselor, you can be able to find the counseling career of your dreams. In this post, we will give a brief overview on how you can become a counselor and help other people.

What Type Of Counselor Do You Want To Be?

The word "counselor" is quite vague. It can apply to many careers, and it's up to you to figure out which counseling job you want to pursue. The important thing is that you go for the counseling job you want, and don't settle for less. Here are a few examples of counseling jobs you can pursue.

  • Marriage counseling. This is where you help married couples and other people in relationships fix their problems. A marriage counselor knows why many relationships fail and can use their skills to keep a marriage together. A good marriage counselor can be able to fix a broken relationship and make the couple feel like they're young again. Sometimes, the marriage counselor isn't fixing broken marriages per se but instead strengthening good marriage. It all depends on the couple and their situation.
  • Career counseling. This counseling job involves helping people pick out their careers and help them manage them. There are many little tasks you can do in career counseling. You can help a teenager decide what field they want to pursue once they go to college. You can help someone in college decide on a degree if they keep changing it. When you're out of college, a career counselor can help you find the job you need. Once you're in your job, they can help you overcome obstacles and help you switch jobs if you realize the job wasn't for you.

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  • Mental health counseling. This is where you help those who have mental health issues. There are many types of mental health counselors. Sometimes, you'll be helping someone who has no severe problems but just wants to improve their mental well-being. Other times, you may be faced with a more challenging client, such as one who is dealing with severe depression. A mental health counselor realizes that each situation is different, but there are common techniques that can be used to treat mental illness. Mindfulness and cognitive behavioral therapy can help many mental health situations and can help people have peace of mind.
  • Substance abuse counselor. When someone has an addiction to drugs or alcohol, being a substance abuse counselor can help those people stay clean and off drugs. The reason why it's hard for many to stay off drugs is that of how the brain changes after addiction. A substance abuse counselor knows how the mind works and can work with the client to help identify the various triggers that can lead to relapse. If the patient relapses, a counselor can then encourage them and help them continue on the right path. This career requires much patience and perseverance.
  • School Counseling. This involves helping children in schools deal with their problems. Learning disabilities, trouble with behaviors, helping the children do their best, and providing resources for the future are just a few things that school counselors can do for the public. They can work with the schools and create programs that can help the children learn the best they can. School counseling applies to various education systems, and you need to know how people in certain age ranges work. Talking to an elementary school student is much different than a high schooler. You may pursue a degree in college counseling as well.
  • Grief Counselor. A grief counselor helps those overcome the loss of their loved one. Everyone goes through loss and grieves, but some people cannot function after the death of their loved one. This can be due to trauma, the strong relationship the person had with the deceased, or many other factors. The job of a grief counselor isn't to let the person "get over" the death of their loved one, but instead teach them how they can grieve healthily and find a purpose in life once again. It's a rewarding career, but one that requires intense empathy.

These are just a few out of the many careers counseling has to offer. Do your research and find which is your passion. Some will want to help the mentally ill, while others will want to fix people's relationships. Find the career that's best for you.

The Education

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You become a counselor unless you have an education. Counseling requires many years of higher education, with the first stop being to get your bachelor's degree. This is a four-year degree, and if you want to be a counselor, you should get your degree in psychology, sociology, education, or another relevant field that may be related to the type of counselor you want to be. For example, if you want to be a school counselor, an education-related degree can work.

Talk to your advisor to see what relevant degrees you can pursue, and this can help you narrow it down. Once you get your bachelor's, your education is far from over.

Now, you must get a master's degree. A master's degree is needed for most counseling jobs. It's not impossible to get a counseling job with a bachelor's degree, but this is rarely the case. You need to get a master's in counseling or a relevant field. Figure out what type of counseling career you want to pursue and find the master's degree the most relevant to that.

The master's degree journey is tough, but one you must complete if you want to become a counselor. Just know that as a counselor, your education never ends. You're always learning more about people, and how we understand the brain and the human condition is ever evolving. What we believe as fact today may be fiction tomorrow. A good counselor will know how to adapt to all these changes.

You may also want to pursue a doctoral degree to become a counselor, but this all depends on what type of counseling job you're pursuing. It's important you talk to a professional to see what your counseling needs should be. Don't get the wrong degree.

Internships Are Important, Too

To have a job as a counselor, you need to test the waters, and one way to do this is through internships. An internship can involve you as assistant to other counselors or counsel people while being supervised. You may need hundreds of hours in your internship to become a counselor.

Getting Your License

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Once you have obtained all your degrees, it's time to become a licensed counselor. To be a reputable counselor, you need your license. Your license applies to all 50 states, but each state exam is a little different. You should research the license requirements in your state to determine what you need. You may need supervised experience, take an exam, and perform other activities to prove you can be a counselor. It all depends, and it varies on where you are. Once you have your license, you're a counselor.

After That

Once you have a license, you can find your counseling job. You may work for a hospital, a health clinic, a psychiatric ward, a school, or you may even establish your private practice. It's hard to say where you should work at, as each situation is a little different. This article is just a general overview on what you need to become a counselor, and your needs will vary. Figure out what type of counselor you want to be, and then research all the requirements needed. Find the best school for your degree. Have internships. Get experience. You'll be glad you did.

Seek Help!

As you journey to become a counselor, it's a stressful career path. You'll be faced with mountains of assignments, internships, and much more than you can handle. It's normal to feel stressed and overwhelmed, and there is no shame in talking to a counselor of your own to help you. Everyone needs a counselor, and that includes current and future counselors as well.

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When you're being educated, a counselor can help you keep track of your assignments, organize your schedule, and employ techniques to keep you calm and determined. During your internships, you can learn tips and tricks, and be able to manage any stresses. So if you feel like you're overwhelmed, it's worth it to talk to someone so you can do your best.


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